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Parent Tips Sept.

How to Talk to Teens About Bad Celebrity Behavior

Ryan Lochte at 2016 Olympics

Celebrities.  They’re just like us.  They walk their dogs, they drink coffee and sometimes they do dumb things.

However, the difference between Ryan Lochte, Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber (to name just a few) and the rest of us is that their mistakes unfold before a global audience, with all the un-edited details shared online and on television.

When the details of celebrity escapades and indiscretions reach the eyes and ears of children, as they are bound to do, how can parents respond?

Cultivate Perspective 

The media can be quick to put actors, athletes and musicians on a pedestal and teens will follow their lead.  However, as you see your teen begin to follow the lives of the rich and famous, it’s an opportunity to put the allure and challenges of fame in perspective and help your child continue to see their humanity.

This can be done by asking questions like, “What about this person interests you?” and “Would you still be interested in their life if they failed in some way? Why or why not?” or “What do you think it would be like to have so many people talking about how your hair looks?” “Do you think they read the things people are saying about them?  How do you think it makes them feel?”.  These conversations can help teens appreciate talent instead of idolize it and begin to recognize the difference between celebrity news and celebrity gossip.

Look to History

Studying history, scripture and the lives of the saints offer real life examples of people who have failed and responded to difficult situations with heroic virtue.  (Bonus idea: look up the meaning of heroic virtue with your child.) Unlike the lives of our contemporaries, biographies of those who lived before us allow us to see the whole story- the failures, the victories and the perseverance in the struggle.  St. Francis of Assisi loved to party.  St. Augustine had a child with his mistress.  Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, had an abortion.  These and many other stories hold examples of the grace of God at work in the lives of people who encounter the same sin we do today.

Ask “What Happened?”

Ask “What happened?”.  Hearing your teen’s interpretation of trending topics is an opportunity to learn what they understand about risk-taking behavior and a chance to reiterate how you want to support them when they face the same challenges.  For example, an article about a celebrity DUI arrest can be a chance to ask your teen about where they might face similar temptations and how they could respond.  Ask questions like, “Is this something you’ve seen for yourself?” and “What could you do if you ended up at a party with alcohol?”

Talk About the Consequences

Without relishing another’s misfortune, it can be eye-opening for students to see consequences like dropped sponsorships or canceled shows.  While most of us aren’t being followed by paparazzi, we all have others who look to us as examples.  Ask your teens who is looking up to them and be ready with examples.  Let them know that younger siblings, cousins, neighbors, the kids who sit behind them at Church and many others may be looking to them to be inspired by their accomplishments. Encourage them to behave in a way that is worthy of imitation.

Pray for them!

Celebrities are just like us, and they need our prayers.  Encourage your teens to pray for those they are entertained and inspired by.  No one is too rich or famous to benefit from prayer.


By: Alison Blanchet